Irish have home-owning 'obsession'


Ireland should end its obsession with home ownership and look at alternatives such as renting or leasing, a former housing adviser to Bill Clinton said today.

Speaking in Athlone today, Nic Retsinas, now a director at the Centre for Housing Studies at Harvard University, said in recent times homes had started to be viewed as an investment opportunity rather than a place to live and raise a family.

Mr Retsinas was addressing the biennial conference of the Irish Council for Social Housing.

“Over time a different vision crept in. There was conspicuous consumption and an environment of encouraging lending that wasn’t very prudent,” he said.

“People should not be obsessed with owning a property. Maybe the issue should not be about home ownership but about something such as making sure people live in decent homes,” he said.

In the past, he said, home ownership had been the ideal in both the United States and Ireland with those who rented their homes being looked down on by some people.

“Society almost demonised renting. You weren’t smart if you rented. But, as it turns out, those who rented could be said to be the smart ones now as property prices crash”, he said.

People in both countries had to “prepare for the new reality” of the property market and look at different ways of providing a home. Homes should be seen as part of a community and not just as stand-alone properties or assets.

Housing, according to Mr Retsinas, was too important to be left to the market. “In the US we have discovered to our cost that a property market must be a regulated market.”

He stressed that the current situation should be seen as an opportunity for new thinking rather than as a difficulty.